News station WWMT is reporting that Caril Ann Fugate had died in a car crash. Fugate was imprisoned for 17 years of a life sentence for her involvement in a 1956 murder spree with then-boyfriend Charles Starkweather, who was executed. The spree, which began in Lincoln, Nebraska and continued through Nebraska and Wyoming, and cost 11 lives. These included Fugate’s stepfather, mother, and baby sister. Fugate was 13 at the time, and is still the youngest person in American history to have been tried for first-degree murder. She later toured schools to speak of the consequences of bad decisions and petitioned Nebrakska to give her a pardon; they declined.
This is not a site that obsesses over real-world serial killers, and I mention Fugate’s passing here (assuming WWMT is right; there has been no additional confirmation) because of the art that the Starkweather spree killing inspired, which include some of the finest work by some of our finest artists.
- 1963’s “The Sadist,” which is an unexpectedly taught single-location thriller starring Arch Hall, Jr. Watch it in full on Archive.org.
- Terrance Malick’s haunting 1973 film Badlands, in which Sissy Spacek played a character inspired by Fugate. (Trailer.)
- 1993’s Kalifornia, starring Brad Pitt and featuring Juliette Lewis in a role inspired by Fugate. (Trailer.)
- 1995’s Natural Born Killers, scripted by Quentin Tarantino and once again featuring Juliette Lewis in a role inspired by Fugate. (Trailer.)
- The spree killers in Peter Jackson’s 1996 horror comedy The Frighteners were also inspired by Starkweather/Fugate. (Trailer.)
- Stephen King was obsessed with the spree in his youth and kept a scrapbook of news clippings; characters inspired by Starkweather have appeared repeatedly in his writing
- Bruce Springsteen’s ballad Nebraska (watch on YouTube) was inspired by the killings
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